Brazil and Netflix bring us a television show about the unseen forces that govern the universe.
The world is filled with misery and sadness, but it would be a lot worse if it weren’t for the Angelus System. It turns out that there are millions of invisible “Angeli” around the world who prevent humans from dying en masse from our own stupidity. They are run by an assignment center that is governed by “the Chief,” an unseen figure that runs the universe based on four rules:
Follow the Daily Assignment Order. (Observe and protect the human you’re assigned)
Don’t appear to humans.
Don’t interfere with humans that aren’t your Daily Assignment Order.
Never enter the Chief’s Office.
There are thousands of Angeli stations which govern various territories and are run like gigantic bureaucracies. Ulisses or “Uli” (Victor Lamoglia) is the newest Angelus, the first to be made in 300 years. He is supervised by the strict but incompetent manager Fred (Augusto Madeira) who assigns him to the care of Greta (Júlia Rabello), a seemingly cold and uncaring Angelus, and Chun (Danilo de Moura), a more caring and sensitive Angelus. On his first day, Uli questions the rules repeatedly, pointing out how arbitrary and nonsensical most of the bureaucracy is and how much humans are suffering. Eventually, he enters into the Chief’s office to see what the logic behind the system is, only to find out that the system is seemingly entirely automated… and powered by a hamster running on a wheel. He accidentally injures the hamster, collapsing the system and kickstarting a mini-apocalypse. It only gets weirder from there when he starts to find a human girl, Miriam (Kéfera Buchmann), attractive.
This show is kind of a counterpoint to The Good Place in some ways. While that show started with the premise that “the afterlife is broken because Earth is broken,” this show’s premise is more akin to “Earth is broken because the afterlife is broken.” Both involve someone pointing out the flaws in a supposed omnipotent and ever-trusted system because they are placed into what they think is the wrong position in it. Both also feature a variety of reactions to the revelation that, perhaps, the universe is a little more broken than you’d think and that the presence of a governing power doesn’t mean that it’s actually a just or caring governing power.
I particularly love how the three lead angels (Uli, Greta, Chun) react to the revelation that the great system that governs their assignments is completely automated and powered by a hamster. Uli decides it means that he can start helping people in his own way, Greta decides that the entire universe is just a joke, and Chun expands his beliefs so that this demonstration that the system is broken is itself a sign that the system is real. Despite the fact that they themselves are heavenly creations, they all are reacting in the same way to the revelation that they still exist in an uncaring and random universe, just one that is more complex than the human version. Watching this rebellion against the system feels distinctly Nietzschean, and I can’t believe that wasn’t at least somewhat intentional when they were creating it. It’s less directly philosophical than The Good Place, but it still has a lot of the same elements at times.
The show is also pretty funny. Aside from just the ridiculous appearance of the Angeli and their super-bureaucratic system, there are a lot of absurd situations and hilarious eccentricities of the various characters. It’s also got a lot of great one-liners… or translations of one-liners. The fact that I still think it’s funny even though it’s in Portugese is impressive. I also love that one of the proposed punishments for angels is having to watch City of Angels for eternity. Oddly, the show was created by the editor from the movie City of God, but I don’t think they made that reference.
If you’re looking for something that’s funny but also a little deeper than many comedies, give it a try. I really need season 2.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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